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What are you doing for others? Answering life’s great question (review)

kid signKids in our neighbourhood know who’s answering life’s great question.

Grown-ups working in hospitals and grocery stores, delivering mail and driving garbage trucks are getting shout-outs on homemade signs that kids are taping in windows and staking on front lawns.

They’re giving thanks to all the essential workers who are putting their lives on the line to get us through the pandemic. As these workers make meaningful contributions, the rest of us may want to make time for some self-reflection while we self-isolate and ride out the storm.

We can start with what Martin Luther King Jr. called life’s most persistent and urgent question – what are we doing for others?

Tom Rath says our answer is how we’ll create a life of contribution and find a deeper purpose beyond earning a paycheque.

life's great question“Life is not what you get out of it,” says Rath, researcher and author of Life’s Great Question. “It’s what you put back in.  All the talent, motivation and hard work in the world will not be valued or remembered if it does not help another human being.”

Daily demands and constant distractions make it easy to avoid thinking about how we could do more to serve our teams, families and communities.

“This is a consequential mistake,” says Rath. “Tomorrow is gone in an instant, another month rolls by, and eventually you have missed years, and then decades, of opportunity to make meaningful and substantive contributions.”

There’s a growing body of research that shows how selflessly serving others is in our best self-interest. Knowing that we’re making meaningful contributions improves our performance at work and boosts our physical health and mental wellbeing.

“I believe we all inherently know this – which makes the gap between what we’re currently contributing and what we have the ability to contribute all the more frustrating.”

Rather than following our passions and pursuing our own joy, Rath says we should instead focus on putting our skills and strengths to work in making the greatest possible contribution to others.

To figure out how best to invest our strengths, he’s identified 12 contributions grouped under themes of creating, relating and operating. A free online assessment will identify the top three contributions that best fit your strengths and meet the needs of others (you get the access code when you buy the book).

“You create meaning when your motivators, abilities and purpose meet to serve the world,” says Rath. “Knowing the first two things about yourself is important yet that is only half of the essential supply-and-demand equation. And all the self-awareness in the world can quickly go to waste if you fail to keep learning what the world needs from you and how you can best serve others.”

If there’s any upside to the pandemic, it may come from the sign-making kids who’ve learned from essential workers that putting purpose ahead of paycheques and leading lives of contribution is how we find the answer to life’s great question.

This review first ran in the April 17 edition of The Hamilton Spectator. Jay Robb serves as communications manager with McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

 

Digital marketing survival guide for small businesses (review of See You on the Internet)

The internet is the only place we’ll be seeing your small business while we self-isolate and do our part to help flatten the COVID-19 curve.

Online is where we’ll get to know you, stay connected and decide whether to spend money with you during the weeks ahead.

Yet with every small business ramping up their online presence in a scramble to survive, how can you stand out and weather the storm?

Now more than ever, you need a digital marketing strategy. Just as you can’t afford not to market online, you can’t afford to get it wrong.

Avery Swartz, founder and CEO of Camp Tech, has a strategy-building framework that she uses with her small business and non-profit clients.

see you“Every small business owner I’ve ever worked with feels the pressure of limited time and resources,” says Swartz, author of See You on the Internet: Building Your Small Business with Digital Marketing.

“You’re constantly trying to weigh the effort of any marketing initiative in your business against the potential reward it will bring. And if you’re not sure it is going to bring you a reward, it can be so tempting to skip it. When the going gets tough, you have to be able to measure (and confidentially know) if the juice is worth the squeeze. And if it’s not, then it’s totally okay to move on to something else.”

Here’s Swartz’s six-step digital marketing framework:

  1. Set a specific, measurable and actionable business goal.
  2. Choose one key performance indicator (KPI) tied to your goal. “There are all kinds of metrics and values you can use to measure your success. It can be totally overwhelming and paralyzing. That’s why it’s essential to focus on just one metric – the one that tells you whether you’re getting any closer to your goal.”
  3. Measure where you currently stand, using your KPI as the measuring stick.
  4. Take a calculated leap into the unknown with digital marketing. Avoid a giant leap. “Don’t spend a lot of money or time at this stage; you’re trying something out to see if it works. Start small and get the results. If your measurement shows some success, great! Double down.” If you don’t hit it out of the park, adjust your strategy and take a different approach online.
  5. Measure what actually happened. “This is the step that requires the most discipline and honesty,” says Swartz. “The only purpose of looking at metrics is to learn, so you can improve. It’s not to make yourself feel good.”
  6. Learn from what you’ve done. What would you do again? Do more of or do it differently? “Look for the signal in the noise to determine what’s working and then double down on those efforts.”

Once you’ve worked through the framework’s six steps, you move into an iterative cycle of planning, executing, measuring and learning.

Along with her framework, Swartz gives a primer on domain names, websites, search engine optimization, social media, email marketing, online advertising and digital metrics. You’ll learn enough to have an intelligent conversation when negotiating with a consultant or marketing firm.

“Digital marketing is hard,” says Swartz. “At some point, I promise you, it will feel like a slog. If you start using a digital tool before you know what you want to achieve with it, and before you make a plan for getting you closer to that goal, you’ll waste your time,” says Swartz.

And in these unprecedented times, no small business owner has any time to waste and no room to wing it. Use Swartz’s digital marketing strategy to know exactly what’s working, what’s not and where to go next.

This review ran in the April 4 edition of the Hamilton Spectator.

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.